Heinrich Brüssow may have irked his coach by picking up a yellow card against the Sharks on his return to the Cheetahs team last weekend, but Naka Drotske will be pleased as punch he has the Springbok flanker back in his side.
The Japan-based loose forward showed last weekend why he is so highly rated with a workman-like performance against a very strong Sharks side and statistics released this week prove just how much the battling Cheetahs have missed him.
The breakdown specialist led the way with turnovers won in Super Rugby matches last weekend, but he was matched, with four, by Stormers man Deon Fourie. The two men will meet this weekend in Bloemfontein and their battle at the breakdown – despite Fourie playing at hooker for the Stormers – should go a long way in determining who comes out on top after 80 minutes.
Fourie has been the Stormers’ main contributor at winning turnover ball, doing so on 12 occasions this season, but then again, Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss has also pilfered opposition ball 12 times – the men sharing second spot behind Matt Hodgson, who’s stolen 13 balls on the ground.
There is little doubt an almighty battle is in the offing. Both teams have struggled for consistency of performance this season and surprisingly occupy the last two places on the points table. The Stormers have won just twice from eight matches and the Cheetahs once from nine outings. There is now little chance either will make the play-offs, but both will want to have an improved second half of the competition.
Drotske, already missing several key players such as Francois Venter, Johan Goosen, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne and Coenie Oosthuizen, has replaced key line-out man Lood de Jager with Andries Ferreira for Saturday’s match.
De Jager, one of the Cheetahs’ better performing players this year, has a broken finger and is expected to be out of action for between four and six weeks.
The only other change to the side that lost to the Sharks in Durban is at the back where Raymond Rhule comes in for Cornal Hendricks on the wing.
Besides Brüssow now back on the field and a boost for the Cheetahs, Drotske should be able to call on flyhalf Goosen (concussion), Labuschagne (groin) and Oosthuizen (neck) in the coming weeks. But more than that, the Cheetahs will have to continue to keep improving their defence if they’re to have a strong run-in and finish in the top half of the points table. They conceded just one try against the Sharks last weekend; their best defensive showing of the year. Drotske’s men have let in 36 tries – and that’s on average four per game.
They’re up against a Stormers team who have been highly criticised for their lack of attacking prowess. Allister Coetzee’s men have scored only 12 tries in eight games, the second worst return after the Lions, who’ve scored 11 tries in nine.
Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Raymond Rhule, Johan Sadie, Ryno Benjamin, Willie le Roux, Elgar Watts, Sarel Pretorius, Boom Prinsloo, Jean Cook, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Andries Ferreira, Maks van Dyk, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: Torsten van Jaarsveld, Trevor Nyakane, Rossouw de Klerk, Waltie Vermeulen, Teboho Mohoje, Shaun Venter, Riaan Smit, Cornal Hendricks - The Star